In a prize ceremony at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Deutsche Welle celebrated the winners of it annual prize competition "The Bobs – Best of Online Activism".
In a global television broadcast and in front of a live audience of 2,000 international guests from the fields of diplomacy, journalism and other segments of public life, DW Director Peter Limbourg honored imprisoned Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi with the Freedom of Speech Award and encouraged participants of the Global Media Forum to demand "the release of online activists in custody around the world."
"Our award sends a signal and contributes to bringing Badawi’s fate into the public spotlight," said Limbourg at the prize ceremony in the World Conference Center in Bonn. "We hope this will increase pressure on those responsible in Saudi Arabia to release him."
In May 2014, the 31-year-old blogger was sentenced by Saudi authorities to 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam. The first 50 lashes were administered in public on January 9, 2015. Badawi was meant to receive 50 lashes every Friday from then on, but the public floggings have been postponed on several occasions. A Saudi court recently upheld the sentence despite public protests from abroad.
Asylum instead of arms
In a ceremonial speech, Jochen Wegner, Editior-in-Chief of the online edition of German daily DIE ZEIT, called this award ceremony "among the most bitter, for Raif Badawi cannot be with us today."
"This prize is perhaps the most important the Bobs have ever given out," said Wegner. "Important for Raif Badawi and his family, who need every conceivable form of support that we can provide."
As important as public support is for him, Badawi has "opened our eyes" and "illustrated the absurdities of life in Saudi Arabia more clearly than ever before – and thus the absurdities of life in many other places in the world," said Wegner.
He is also an important example to aspire to. "I very much hope that many journalists and activists try to live up to his example and do not cease dedicating themselves to defending the right to free speech."
Wegner praised Canada for granting Badawi and his family asylum. "I wish that all European countries, where the right to asylum is currently a subject of intense debate, would compete with Canada to make such offers of asylum rather than competing among themselves for the privilege of exporting arms to our ally Saudi Arabia."
"Do not forget Raif"
In a video message from her home in exile in Canada, Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, said that the award was clear proof that Raif and his just cause were not left in isolation. For family reasons, Haidar was prevented from traveling to Bonn to receive the award on behalf of her husband but she thanked DW Director General Limbourg, who "has defended Badawi from the beginning." She appealed to the international community and politicians in particular to not forget Raif.
The conference delegates took her words to heart in the form of a resolution demanding "the immediate release of all online activists being held in custody around the world. The right to free speech and freedom of expression are human rights. Journalists and activists have the right to unlimited freedom and safety."
At the award ceremony, Deutsche Welle also honored the three jury-selected winners of the 2015 Bobs Awards.
The prize in the category Social Change went to Mukto Mona from Bangladesh. Rafida Bonya Ahmed received the award.
The Mexican website Rancho Electrónico ("electronic ranch") won the award in the Privacy & Security category. Rubén Omar Valencia Pérez accepted the prize on behalf of the platform’s creators.
"Zaytoun, the little refugee" won the jury-selected award in the Arts & Media category. María Carrión received the award.
International partners and co-hosts
DW's partners for the approximately 40 workshops and events being held at the 2015 Global Media Forum include, among others, Amnesty International, Grimme-Institut, the United Nations, the OSCE, Reporters Without Borders Germany and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The conference is co-hosted by the Foundation for International Dialogue of the Sparkasse Savings Bank in Bonn. Support is also kindly provided by Germany's Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the City of Bonn and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.